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Once and for all, no to tribalism Mthwakazi

As the pro-Mthwakazi agenda enters its new season, we need to redefine how we fight our battles. We must accept now that dictating ‘solutions’ to people has not worked. The reason is most probable that we are ‘solving’ problems that are essentially of politicians’ imagination and not what the public identifies as their problems. Worse still, we are employing exclusionary tactics that are leaving our society more vulnerable to fragility and conflict.

We acknowledge that, like all politics, Mthwakazi politics is local; based on what is currently important to us, we have assigned values to a set of ideas and we have a rough sketch of the Mthwakazi we want. The mandate of pro-Mthwakazi groups is to transform this sketch into reality. The groups have a responsibility in providing us with a sense of belonging and helping define ourselves; our expectation is that these groups will effectively align their views with our ideas and help escalate our local concerns in a national context. We want them to mediate and create common ground to facilitate local and national compromise and thus help Mthwakazi unite and remain united.

We need to move forward with the people and that cannot happen by staring at our problems; let us look beyond ZANU PF and up to our norms and values. In other words, let our focal point not be our enemy but our needs. We cannot construct public policy in dark alleys in the absence of the people we claim to represent. Proper research of people’s needs on top of a good understanding of the local norms and values, not our assumptions nor ZANU PF’s systems should inform our political standards.

Any system that inadvertently or deliberately marginalises some population groups leaving them vulnerable to human created hazards and feeling excluded from decisions affecting their lives due to their identity is morally bereft, contemptible and not worthy of anyone’s respect. We know, and we are witnesses to the reality that extremes to the right and to the left of any political reaction are always wrong.

In the face of political confusion, it must never be lost to our people that Mthwakazi is born of diversity; diversity created our nation, and not the other way around. To wish this reality away or even try to restrict the breadth and depth of our diversity is political insanity. There is no objective historical narrative that suggests there were tribal groupings excluded from joining the Mthwakazi nation if they so wished. We will not start setting unreasonable citizenship laws.

Tribalism is a learned behaviour, it can be unlearned; the tribalism openly displayed by some Matabeleland nationalist groups and/ or their representatives must be exposed for what it is and not be buried under the deluge of arguments about the Zimbabwean state illegal activities in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the early 1980s. The deliberate and reckless statements do present a real risk to escalation of political tensions instead of uniting people in the region.

We cannot justify tribalism and bigotry under the veil of action against Gukurahundi atrocities and actions of a Shona dominated State; let us deal with Gukurahundi separately through correct channels and stop tying it with a future politics of the region. It is not to anyone’s interest to use Gukurahundi as the arc and narrative of our policy formulation. Let us focus on our norms and values as a stable base from which to realign our politics.

To begin that journey, Matabeleland public must take real steps in re-occupying the political space vacated decades ago when in its response to State-sanctioned aggression in the region, PF ZAPU effectively surrendered to ZANU PF, and ZANU PF took control of the geographic territory but neglected the region’s political needs.

The consequent and genuine socioeconomic and political problems in the region have left it vulnerable to exploitation. It is apparent that this vacant political space is gradually being filled by opportunists and extremist organisations with questionable desires and intentions that go against the values we stand for.

Surely, it is intellectually arrogant and emotionally inept for any leader to believe that the expulsion of Shona people from Matabeleland amounts to a proportionate, reasonable and justified policy that will lead to local empowerment. People are more empowered by systems, laws and policies that protect them against the abuse of power by the political elite and not by exposing some population groups to harm because of who they are. You do not resolve your breathing difficulties by asphyxiating someone else.

ZANU PF’s brutalisation of Mthwakazi has not improved the security of ordinary Shona people. The expulsion of Indians from Uganda did not leave a tranquil political scene for black Ugandans to enjoy. Likewise, Mthwakazi political groups fueled by anger and pure hatred will only protect their interests, not people; they will hammer anyone who disagrees with them.

Organisations whose centre of policy formulation is tribalism and view indiscriminate punitive measures against certain population groups in our society as a legitimate political policy must know once and for all they are further from the centre of a diversity-based Matabeleland sociopolitical centre; they do not reflect our norms and values and their politics does not even begin to reflect the majority’s views.

The pro-Matabeleland agenda must not be another step in a journey to normalising tribalism and bigotry in our region. It must be a tool for local empowerment, a voice for the voiceless in the region and a vital institution for protecting our rights as a society. Our rights will not be protected by the denial of the same to some communities within our society but by the establishment of systems and institutions that protect individuals from discrimination and ensure equal access to opportunities to all; systems that reward effort and not social background are paramount to the future we rightly deserve.

Irrespective of the values and aims pro-Mthwakazi groups proclaim, what matters most is how they behave – how they deal with internal and external conflicts, and how responsibly they act towards the citizens they claim to represent. Their behaviour affects their success in becoming and remaining influential political actors.

The widening gap between the public and sociopolitical groups’ interests is disheartening, and if not halted will compromise public confidence in the pro-Mthwakazi groups and the entire agenda will suffer irreparable damage. This is the last thing Mthwakazi needs. The sustenance of the agenda will need these organisations not only to reflect our values but also to be deeply and durably entrenched in the fabric of our society.

We appreciate no sociopolitical organisation is perfect, but when functioning well sociopolitical organisations offer better space to discuss and escalate local issues to national level. Our organisations need to take their responsibilities seriously, our support is neither free nor just social-identity based. We want to remind our pro-Mthwakazi groups that they have an opportunity to create a legacy for this generation and indeed generations to come but tribalism is not the Mthwakazi way to do it. Extremism is lazy politics of populism driven by passion that cannot stand scrutiny. We do need to jealously protect the rights of our people, but that should be done through just laws and policies.


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